About Costello Competition

The Lyra Society Announces the 8th Annual
Costello Competition for Composition for 2020-2021

Andrew Hsu and Pat Ciarrocchi discussing his piece “Improvisations on Ailein Duinn” before its premiere at the Curtis Institute of Music

The Lyra Society, established in 2004, was created to introduce the harp to underserved students in the Philadelphia community, expand the harp repertoire by commissioning gifted composers, and educate young people through music. To select the recipient of the seventh annual Costello Commission, the Lyra Society is hosting a one stage composition competition.  This year, the selected winner will write a solo piece for harp to receive a $1,000.00 cash prize along with a world premiere in the Curtis Field Concert Hall (pending COVID restrictions), and publication by Fatrock Ink Music Publishers.  All students currently enrolled in University studies are eligible to participate.  This competition is currently open to US and Canadian citizens.


  • Dr. David Ludwig – Artistic Advisor and Chair of Composition, Curtis Institute of Music
  • Elizabeth Hainen – Principal Harp of the Philadelphia Orchestra and founder of the Lyra Society
  • Michael Djupstrom – Prize-winning composer and Musical Studies Faculty, Curtis Institute of Music
  • Daniel Dorff Composer-in-residence, Symphony in C (1996-2015) and VP Publishing, Theodore Presser Company.

About the Costello Competition

Marilyn Costello, Former Principal Harpist of the Philadelphia Orchestra

Lyra’s commissioning initiative was included in Lyra’s mission when Elizabeth Hainen founded the organization. Inspired by Edna Phillips’ legacy, Lyra’s commissioning program further expanded the harp’s repertoire. Elizabeth Hainen, Lyra, and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society joint-commissioned incredible works from composers Jonathan Leshnoff, Melinda Wagner, and Esteban Benzecry. 

The Edna Philips Lyra Commissioning Program was then parlayed into the Costello Composition Competition, created by Curtis Institute of Music alumna and harpist Elizabeth White Clark in 2014. The Costello Competition serves to encourage young composers to write effective solo and chamber works for the harp. The competition honors the legacy of Marilyn Costello, former harp teacher at Curtis Institute of Music and Principal Harpist of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1946 to 1992. Since 2014, the Lyra Society has awarded more than $5,000 in prize money through the Costello Competition to young composers, commissioned five new works for the harp in a solo or chamber setting, and published four works through Fatrock Ink Publishers.

Past Winners

2020 – Amy Nam

Work: “Abating Shadows” for Clarinet, Harp and Vibraphone

About Amy Nam

Minneapolis-based composer and harpist Amy Nam writes music characterized by her sense of optimism and interest in timbre, non-standard forms, and nested structures. Currently, Amy studies composition with Robert Morris at the Eastman School of Music. She holds degrees from McGill University, where she studied composition with John Rea and harp with Jennifer Swartz, and from Vanderbilt University, where she graduated with first honors as the Blair School of Music Founder’s Medalist. In 2018 her work Somewhere to Elsewhere, for harp and ensemble, won a BMI Student Composer Award. Active as a harpist as well as a composer, Amy has been featured as a soloist with the Vanderbilt University Orchestra and the McGill Contemporary Ensemble.

2019 – Roydon Tse

Congratulations to Roydon Tse, the winner of our 2019 Costello Competition for Composition! Mr. Tse’s composition ‘Release’ for solo harp was premiered by harpist Elizabeth White Clark at our April 7th Benefit, ‘Glissando LIVE!’ at the Curtis Institute of Music in Field Hall.

About Roydon Tse

Acclaimed for his “exquisitely layered soundworlds” (I Care if You Listen.com) and named one of CBC Music’s Top “30 under 30 Canadian Classical Musicians” (2017), the music of Roydon Tse combines contemporary sophistication with a direct emotional arc which resonates with audiences from all backgrounds. His music has been performed in venues such as the Kennedy Center, Shanghai’s Symphony Hall and Melbourne’s Recital Center and has been broadcast internationally.

As a composer of instrumental works, Roydon has collaborated with the Brussels Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Philharmonic, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Land’s End Ensemble, Cecilia String Quartet, and members of the Paris Opera Orchestra. Recent honours and awards include the Washington International Composition Prize, three SOCAN Foundation Awards for Young Composers, the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s Emerging Artist Award, Vancouver Bach Choir Composition Prize and finalist of the BMI Composers Award.

Born in Hong Kong, Roydon completed musical studies at the University of British Columbia and University of Toronto. He is a D.M.A candidate at the University of Toronto studying with Norbert Palej and is an associate composer of the Canadian Music Center. He is also active as an educator, performer, and music engraver, and is currently on faculty at the Regent Park School of Music.

2018 – Pierce Gradon

Congratulations to Pierce Gradone, the winner of our 2018 Costello Competition for Composition! Mr. Gradone’s composition ‘The Watching’ for alto flute, harp, and viola will be premiered at our May 9 Benefit, ‘Glissando LIVE!’ at the Curtis Institute of Music in Field Hall at 6 pm.

Pierce Gradone’s music echoes the strange brew of musical cultures that made up his childhood, from playing bluegrass in the hills of Appalachia, to sprinting the marathon of blinding-fast pentecostal shout music. His recent work explores the notion of music as an embodied art, grappling with narratives of labor, personhood, and mechanical reproduction. Described as “gorgeous, expansive” (I Care If You Listen) and “engaging” (Chicago Tribune), his music has been performed throughout the world by Eighth Blackbird, Ensemble Signal, Imani Winds, Riot Ensemble, Pacifica Quartet, the Chicago Civic Orchestra, and many others. He has received awards and commissions from the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University, American Modern Ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente, Luna Nova, and Line Upon Line Percussion, among others. He currently resides in Chicago, where he is a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago. This fall he will be joining the faculty of Knox College as an Assistant Professor of Music Composition.

For more information on Mr. Gradone, please visit http://piercegradone.com/

2017 – Benjamin Yee-Paulson

Benjamin Yee-Paulson (b. 1994) is an American composer internationally recognized for his orchestral, chamber, vocal, and piano music. His music has been premiered at many venues including Carnegie Hall, Jordan Hall, Harvard University, Warwick Castle in England, La Schola Cantorum in Paris, and the world opening of Microsoft’s flagship store. He is a six-time finalist in the national Morton Gould Young Composer Competition, run by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. He twice received the Emerging Composer award from the national Tribeca New Music Festival, and third and fourth place from the Pikes Peak Young Composers national competition. He received second place/runner-up status in the international Future Blend Project competition, and is the winner of the national Lyra Society’s Composition Competition.
Yee-Paulson is a student of Kati Agócs. Previous instructions include Justin Dello Joio, Phillip Lasser, David Conte, and Rodney Lister. Master classes include Michael Gandolfi, Samuel Adler, and the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. Yee-Paulson attended the European American Musical Alliance in 2013 and 2014, an international composition program in Paris. Yee-Paulson was a member of the New York Youth Symphony’s Composition Program, leading to several premieres by NYYS instrumentalists. Other premieres occurred at the 2015 Bard Conductor’s Institute, and the 2016 Atlantic Music Festival. His recent commissions are from the Denver Central Presbyterian Chorus, and the 2017 Zodiac Music Festival.
Yee-Paulson has a Bachelors of Music from New York University, where over thirty of his compositions were premiered in concert. He is in New England Conservatory’s Masters of Music program.

For more information, visit his website at benyeepaulsonmusic.com

1 Comment

Amy Nam wins Lyra Society composition contest - Harp Column · December 2, 2019 at 2:45 pm

[…] Nam has been selected as the 2020 Costello Competition winner. The seventh competition organized by the Lyra Society, Nam was awarded $1000 to write a new […]